India is currently riding on the crest of industrialization. As long as the accompanying boom is balanced with a sustainable development plan for the environment, progress is but a by-product. But then, when the balance between these two gets disturbed, the results are akin to committing hara-kiri. A recent case that is fast gathering national attention despite High Court directives for the same is the environmental abuse being affected in Tamil Nadu by the 40 odd tanneries and approximately 500 textile dying units of Erode, who are discharging their untreated effluents into the nearby water channels.
Defined by the Oxford dictionary as liquid waste or sewage discharged into a river or the sea, the effluents can be termed hazardous when they are released into the water streams without any treatment. Treated effluents contain primary biodegradable matter which usually does not harm the water bodies as the flora and fauna degrade them. However, effluents if released prior to treatment, harm the water bodies as well as the paths through which they traverse, as the pollutants in these effluents are still in their complex form and can therefore not be degraded by the micro-flora and fauna.
Basically, each type of industry has an effluent type that is specifically related to its activities. The leather processing or the tannery industry as it is also called has very complex by-products as a result of its activities and hence has among its varied components, a high amount of chrome compounds as well as other miscellaneous heavy metals. The textile industry on the other hand has effluents rich in salts such as sodium chloride and sodium sulphate. In addition to these, effluents are also known for their highly objectionable odour.
Currently in Tamil Nadu, chiefly Erode, the poll fever is at its high, and the Pollution Control Board has therefore gone lax with its regulations citing polling work, the direct effect of which has therefore fallen on the farmers residing by the Pichakkaranpallam Odai, a major water carrying channel, as gallons of effluents from these tannery units and textile processing plants are being dumped into it untreated. This in turn has affected the water quality of the Kalingarayan canal. This deteriorating water quality has in turn poisoned the soil, with the crop productivity having fallen drastically. Though currently only the decline in crop productivity is observed, it would not be long before the pollutants percolate into the soil and ground water thereby causing an irreversible environmental damage.
What since 2009 has continued today unto 2011 for reasons known only to the Pollution Control Board at Erode will have major consequences tomorrow. Environment conservation is the need of the hour and a greed for more productivity and profit and/or negligence in duty can, rather will in the long term totally offset the very environment in which we live. Let’s wake up before it happens.